Legislators field concerns from Delaware Farm Bureau

Plus, conferences focus on agriculture for youth, safety

By Mike Finney
Posted 4/1/24

Farmers have a powerful voice in many decisions that take place at Legislative Hall, considering that the state is ranked No. 1 in the nation for agricultural value sold per acre.

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Legislators field concerns from Delaware Farm Bureau

Plus, conferences focus on agriculture for youth, safety


DOVER — Farmers have a powerful voice in many decisions that take place at Legislative Hall, considering that the state is ranked No. 1 in the nation for agricultural value sold per acre.

More than 2,300 family farms utilize 40% of Delaware’s land for their production, including commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, making it easy to see why it’s the state’s leading industry.

Considering that influence, farmers met with legislators recently to voice concerns regarding their profession. The Delaware Farm Bureau held breakfast events in all three counties and a lunch at Legislative Hall in Dover, hoping to share the stories of agriculture.

“It’s very important that we have the chance to talk with our legislators and encourage them to learn more about what we do day in and day out,” said Don Clifton, the bureau’s executive director, in a press release.

“Our farmer members were able to share their needs and concerns during the breakfast events, and to thank the legislators for previous actions that benefited our agriculture industry. The luncheon was a great opportunity to celebrate National Ag Day and share that with even more legislators and their staff.”

Topics included crop damage from unmanaged deer populations, solar farms and international worries.

Stephanie Knutsen of G&S Dairy in Harrington also spoke about raw milk, to dispel fears and share data and personal experiences.

“We know there’s a bill coming about raw milk; it’s consumer driven,” Mr. Clifton noted. “We want to make sure our legislators have the data they need to make informed decisions about raw milk which, of course, would come directly from our farmers.”

Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Camden, attended the breakfast at Hollywood Diner in Dover and was pleased to meet with farmers there.

“We, as legislators, are not doing our best job if we’re not discussing the impact of our work with the people it affects. Opportunities like these are very important,” he said.

Meanwhile, the lunch at Legislative Hall proved just as impactful, as bureau staffers and volunteers, 4-H members and National FFA Organization students spoke with lawmakers over farm-fresh meals prepared by Main Street Market in Smyrna.

“It’s important to let the legislators know that Delaware’s No. 1 industry is agriculture, and the best way to do that is to feed them food from Delaware,” said bureau member Jackie King.

Kyle Kerr, president of the Delaware 4-H State Teen Council, and Ainsley West, the group’s state secretary, said supporting the agency and meeting with legislative liaisons furthers their mission and helps students gain important, long-lasting experiences.

“It gives us a way to make connections and help out the farm bureau. I love these kinds of events because I get to meet the legislators who will help us out down the line,” Kyle said.

For her part, Ainsley said she would like to emphasize just “how big and diverse the agricultural industry is in Delaware. There’s a broad spectrum, and everybody is very supportive.”

Young Farmers and Ranchers attend leadership conference

Members of the bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program joined similar agricultural-minded individuals and families at a conference in Omaha, Nebraska, on March 8-11.

The leadership gathering, hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation, included Mollie Lynch of Houston and several Delaware youth.

She was one of 16 from the state’s Young Farmers and Ranchers group who attended to learn skills and gain insight to bring home to their farms and their advocacy efforts.

Ms. Lynch said the initiative provided her delegation valuable information.

“This conference is especially important because we learn things about agriculture from different parts of the country and bring it back to Delaware to use within our own farms and community,” she said in a press release.

Joining her in Omaha was her husband, Kent County Young Farmers and Ranchers chair Michael Lynch, and their baby, Eleanor Lynch.

Other attendees from the area included Abel Elwell of Middletown; Casey Collier and Jordan Betts of Milton; Adam Collier and J.T. Robbins of Harrington; Will and Ariel Powers of Townsend; Nathan Thompson of Hartly; Paul William Saathoff of Denton, Maryland; Connor Vincent of Laurel; Hannah O’Hara of Milford; Alex and Kourtney Keenan of Smyrna; and A.J. Alexander of Felton.

Each took part in a variety of sessions throughout the four-day conference, took farm tours and went sightseeing.

Ms. Lynch said her biggest takeaway came from a speech given by American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy DuVall.

“He gave a speech about being involved in your county more so than anything because that’s where your community is at and that’s who you directly affect. That was very powerful to me,” she said.

“We want to reach them more via direct marketing and getting food directly to the consumer, but we also want to educate the community on where their food comes from so they’re more cautious when they see farmers out on the road and more conscious about where they spend their money and things of that nature.”

Other workshops focused on time management, financing and starting various farming ventures.

Attendees also completed a service project of packing 4,000 meals to benefit hungry families in Omaha.

Ag Safety Conference

On March 20, safety was the priority during the Delaware Farm Bureau’s annual Ag Safety Conference at Loblolly Acres in Viola.

In partnership with Nationwide and the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, the annual event featured innovative safety solutions, as well as tips for farmers for their operations.

“It was a great day. I think it was wonderful,” chair June Unruh said. “During our annual banquet last year, we received a Delaware Farm Bureau book from 1963, and some of the things in there, like road safety, were things we’re still talking about today.

“There was a section in there about farm tractors and traffic, and that was — what? — 60 years ago, and we’re still talking about it. It’s an important topic, and it needs to be talked about all the time.”

Ms. Unruh has helped organize the conference for years and spoke of its significance.

“Safety is more than reading a safety brochure or looking at a safety poster; it needs to be a part of who we are and a part of our everyday life,” she said. “You have to be consistent, too. You can’t just do it sometimes because that’s when accidents happen.

“You have to practice safety all of the time, and you should make it a part of your day, so when others observe you, maybe they can take away something from that experience and make it a part of their life, too.”

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